By Kevin J. Jones
Pope Benedict XVI’s first tweet has catapulted the Vatican’s presence on Twitter to new heights.
Thousands of Twitter users retweeted the Pope’s June 28 announcement that launched the Vatican website News.va, and thousands more subscribed to the Vatican’s English-language Twitter account.
The English channel follower count stood at over 65,000 as of Friday evening, an increase of almost 54,000 from the period before the Pope’s message.
“Dear Friends, I just launched News.va,” the Pope said through an iPad tablet device. “Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”
Twitter allows users to broadcast to their followers short messages of 140 characters called tweets. The site has particularly caught on among news outlets and celebrities.
The growth of the Vatican’s English-language Twitter channel, “news_va_en,” was massive compared to the Vatican’s Twitter accounts in other languages. The Spanish-language channel has about 11,000 followers, while the Italian-language channel sits at only 3,500.
The Twitter accounts won’t be for the Pope’s personal use. Instead, they will serve the Vatican’s first multimedia news portal News.va, which allows readers to view all of the Vatican’s media in one place.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNA on June 27 that the Vatican is trying to provide Vatican news in “a modern and accessible way, using new technology.”
Ahead of the launch of the Vatican’s new site, Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Pope’s tweet will be “a simple but powerful and symbolic action.”
The News.va website integrates with social networks. Its design is geared toward mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad.
“This is a new approach for us,” Archbishop Celli noted.